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The Department of Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) is committed to reducing the number of false fire alarms attended to each year.
A false fire alarm is when DFES attends a premises in response to an alarm where there is no fire. False fire alarms disrupt the community; cause complacency and business down time due to evacuations, and divert responders away from genuine emergencies, which could potentially lead to loss of life and property. DFES is legally required by the
Fire Brigades Act 1942 to attend to a call of fire.
In the 2019/20 financial year, firefighters responded to over 8,500 false fire alarm activations, which equates to approximately 23 false fire alarm attendances each day. These alarms can be broken down into two groups: those that are Direct Brigade Alarms (DBAs) and those that are generated by privately monitored alarms.
DBA is the term used where an automatic signalling device is installed and connected to an alarm system that provides a direct link to the DFES Communications Centre (COMCEN). A privately monitored alarm is where an installed alarm system is monitored by an alternate monitoring company therefore does not provide a direct link to the DFES COMCEN. In this instance, the chosen private monitoring company must dial “000” to request a response by DFES.
The main causes of false fire alarms are:
- poor building maintenance;
- detectors are:
- inappropriately placed and installed
- inadequate for their intended purpose
- dirty and require cleaning
- smoke from burning food and steam from cooking and showers,
- aerosol sprays (i.e. deodorant and hair spray),
- cigarette smoke and candles,
- building works; and
- damage to fire alarm systems.
Tips to reduce false fire alarms
Some detectors are extremely sensitive; however, some very simple steps can be taken to assist in reducing the number of false fire alarms occurring, for example:
- Check toaster settings prior to use, and do not walk away from a toaster that has been set to further darken/cook toast,
- Do not smoke near detectors and do not direct aerosol spray at smoke detectors,
- Understand your fire alarm system and manage work activities that may produce dust, heat, steam and smoke etc.,
- Ensure sufficient ventilation for steam and fumes is installed, particularly in bathrooms and kitchens,
- Switch on fans and open vents and windows before cooking or showering,
- Know where all detectors are installed and ensure all reasonable measures are taken to avoid false fire alarm activations,
- Ensure workmen and contractors notify you that they are on site to carry out work as you may need to isolate specific and surrounding zones so dust, fumes, spraying or steam cleaning doesn’t set alarms off.
Special Notes for Building Owners
Ensure your fire alarm system is tested and maintained by a recognised fire alarm technician and to the relevant Australian Standards.
It is important all detectors are:
- installed correctly and comply with the relevant Australian Standards,
- are sufficient and adequate for the premises current floor plan and layout,
- are specific to the buildings current purpose and occupancy requirements, and
- are maintained in accordance with Australian Standard (AS) 1851.